Four words to chill the soul – ‘But is it prog?’

When did you first get into prog?

If you’d asked 15 year old me what my musical goals were they probably wouldn’t have included playing at prog rock festivals, being nominated for a prog award or receiving positive reviews from Classic Rock and Prog magazines. I was a 90s kid, and liked 90s rock and to be honest Prog wasn’t often mentioned on the pages of Kerrang.

Some of the Creatures have Broken the Locks on the Door to Lab 558 is probably my ‘signature’ song. It’s a little bit prog. 

I like rock music that surprises you. That doesn’t stick with the expected 4/4 beats or the usual chords. But I didn’t know that kind of music sometimes gets called ‘progressive’ until I’d been writing it for several years.

Now I don’t think of my music as ‘pure’ prog. If you just want a copy of the 70s classics, I’m not your guy. But about fifteen years ago when I was teaching guitar, one of my pupils bought in a CD and said ‘I want to learn this’ and everything changed.

He’d bought in a Dream Theater CD. Now, I’m not going to claim to be the world’s biggest Dream Theater fan, but my student called it ‘prog metal’ – a term I hadn’t heard before. And that woke me up to the fact that prog hadn’t stopped in the 70s. In fact it had gone from strength to creative strength, even as the mainstream became less interested.

I got into prog metal, and then went back and discovered the classics, especially King Crimson, but also the amazing wealth of current acts – Knifeworld, The Fierce and the Dead – who are keeping the weird-rock flag flying. I also saw the connections with the prog-tinged acts I loved when I was younger like Radiohead and Mansun.

All the while I was writing my own music, so it seemed sensible to start getting in touch with prog radio and podcast producers.

Flash forward a year or two and I played my first prog gig supporting Alan Reed (ex of Pallas) at the now defunct Peel in south London. I played my 5 song cycle ‘The Miser’s Will’ and instead of people looking at me like I was mad, I sold out of the last copies of that album before I’d got off stage.

I’d found my audience. People who loved music that surprises, who like lyrics that tell a story, that want their musicians to explore a wider pallet.

Not long after I travelled with guitar player extraordinaire Matt Stevens (The Fierce and The Dead) to Summers End festival to play on their acoustic stage. That nailed it for me – the audience were really supportive and seemed to get what I was doing. I had found a place I fit.

Here’s a rough ‘bootleg’ recording of my acoustic set at Summers End festival in 2014. 

Is my music prog? I’m not really interested in boxes, and I’m not trying to sound like anyone else. But do I love prog, and has that influenced my songs? Yes, absolutely.

What about you? When did you first get into prog rock? Let me know in the comments!